Another Historic Building Lost: The Walker House Hotel, Odessa, Ontario

Walker House circa 1900

The charming main street through Odessa will soon have another big gap, when the Rebekah Lodge Building (which burned in mid August) is demolished.   This structure was originally the Walker House Hotel, and has a long history.  The site was purchased by Johnston Walker in 1847 for 55 pounds.   At that time 55 pounds was a reasonable price for a lot with little or nothing built upon it.  Johnston Walker was the son of Weedon Walker who owned a hostelry at concession 3, lot 8, Kingston township known as “Five Mile House”.   His son may have gained his hotel-keeping experience there.   

Johnston Walker built the original, handsome symmetrical red brick building, probably in the 1840’s —  early 1850’s  as the twelve-over-six fenestration and entrance treatment suggest.   The Walker family owned the Odessa building until 1871.  It then passed to the Wycott family, who changed the name to “The Royal Hotel”.  They sold to the International Order of Oddfellows (IOOF), Lodge 361, in 1914.   The Oddfellows were a very popular fraternal society in Odessa.  The ladies’ arm of the IOOF are the Rebekahs, and both the male and female societies met in the building with the two coming together to share a sumptuous dinner annually.   The old Walker House has another connection to many local families.  In the 1940’s, when rural young folk no longer liked to have  granny’s wake in the parlour, the front room of the old hotel was often rented for that purpose.

Odessa was once one of the most thriving villages of Ernestown Township and has survived nearly in tact.  Ironically, the other major loss on the main street was another hotel, the old Stagecoach Inn.   The sign from the facade of the Stagecoach Inn and attached spoolwork elaboration now hang at the Lennox and Addington County Museum in Napanee.

Ernestown Township became part of Loyalist Township in 1999, and there is an active Heritage Committee, but it is doubtful that anything can be done to encourage a sympathetic replacement for either hotel.  The lesson is that we need to respect, care for and enjoy those old buildings which remain to us, as their numbers dwindle every year.

I am grateful to Philip Smart and Ross Babcock for sharing their research with me.  I also wish to acknowledge the late Glenn Robertson who shared his family photographs with the community, including the one above which shows the Walker House when it was the Royal Hotel, circa 1900.

Below, after the fire.

After the fire, August 2009

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8 Comments

Filed under Architecture, Buildings - Ontario, History, Ontario, Material culture, Ontario Architecture

8 responses to “Another Historic Building Lost: The Walker House Hotel, Odessa, Ontario

  1. I don’t usually reply to posts but I will in this case, great info…I will add a backlink and bookmark your site. Keep up the good work! 🙂

  2. There’s good info here. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog. Keep up the good work mate!

  3. kathy heaton

    I DO NOT REMEMBER THE LOCATION OF THE WALKER HOUSE, BUT I DO RECALL THE STAGECOACH INN. I SPENT SEVERAL WEEKS EACH SUMMER DURING THE 1950’S ACROSS THE ROAD VISITING WITH MY MOTHER’S AUNT ALICE POOKE. HER HUSBAND WALTER, WAS THE ODESSA POSTMASTER FOR A GOOD MANY YEARS. I FOUND THE ARTICLE TO BE QUITE INTERESTING AND IT BROUGHT BACK A LOT OF MEMORIES. BEING FROM PHILA., PA , ODESSA SEEMED LIKE THE WILD WEST TO A TEN YEAR OLD.

  4. havoc

    great post!

  5. Kathy Wycott-Vandewal

    Just came across your article, I agree it is sad to see the old buildings go.
    My mother Vera Wycott was a Rebecca & I did join for awhile so did attend the Walker House Lodge – I also remember the Stage Coach Inn ..of course when it had been turned into a store & was in awe at that time knowing that
    it had belonged to my family way back when! My grandmother, had been
    raised in New York & we have letters written by her of her trips to Canada by stage coach so she would have stopped there as well on her trip to
    Picton where she married my grandfather, Charles Macdonell Wycott around 1910.
    Kathy Wycott-Vandewal

  6. Robert Harvey

    I was priviledged to move to Odessa in 1955 at the age of 8 years old. My parents had bought the Villa Restaurant which was next to the Stage Coach Inn. About a year later, the Stage Coach Inn opened a restaurant. It was unwelcomed competition. I remember our big Neon Sign hanging from the front of the Villa, with a large hotdog, hanging beneath. Inside Elvis Presley’s first records were playing in our Wurlitzer Jukebox. It was all Bobby Sox and Pony Tails. At this time the 401 highway did not exist, so all traffic between Montreal to Toronto, was just a sidewalk away. As a youth it was a fun time.In the winter we would skate in the evening to a large tire fire at the Mill Dam, and sleigh down the sawdust hill at Babcocks Mill. In the Summer we would swim at the Mill Dam or a place we called The Rapids.There were occassional entertainment venues at the Town Hall. It was an exciting time, and a very active village. It had about 5 restaurants, The Villa, The Stage Coach Inn, McMillan’s, Ryders, and The Log Cabin Inn. Aprox. 4 Grocery Stores, Benest’s, Savages, Philip’s which was at the bridge, and one where the library is located. Aprox. Three Gas Stations, Esso, close to Fair Grounds. McMillan’s Shell Station, and Ryders Station. Savages was also a Hardware store, and still is. There was and still is The Royal Bank, that is accross from The Villa. As a child I took full advantage of any opportunity for adventure in this lively town, and surrounding forests. Living there for three years gave me experiences that I will always Cherish.

    • Brian Adrian Babcock

      I am not sure how to start this but the reason for searching the internet was based on my attempt to find a contact for the IOOF Lodge 361. I was sorting through my father’s memorabilia and his father’s and came across an old picture of this lodge probably taken in the late ’30s. I have also the IOOF badge that was worn and the collar apron- I am sure there is a proper name for it-forgive my ignorance.
      Both my father grandfather were IOOF members and from the information above, the Odd Fellows were popular in the early 1900s as they moved to their purchased building in 1917. Reading the words ‘Babcock Mill’ jarred my thoughts on how my family heritage might have influenced the people and times of Odessa.
      In the 50s I recall visiting my grandmother Babcock who was renting a small wooden structured apartment along the main road of Odessa, as we travelled back from Ottawa while visiting my mother’s parents. If we stayed for the night, the three of us kids would sleep on the living room floor being reminded of the time every hour by an old table top clock. It’s incessent ticking reminded us that we were in Odessa.
      My grandmother stayed in Odessa for quite some time before moving to Napanee. Her husband ran a taxi company for a while and I have a taxi card with the thought that the taxi was heated. This had to be in the 30s as my grandfather and father operated a cheesefactory in Wilton and other places, during the 40’s. This was a job that my father continued to do throughout the early 50’s while living in Frankford.
      I have decided to scan a lot of information about my ancestors so that at least I have a record of the documents they had. However, I wonder about the usefulness of do this as I cannot pass this information or this legacy on as my son has passed away. I remain keenly interested though, in reading blogs like this as I want to know who my relatives were, what achievements have been made and about places where they lived, such as Odessa. If anyone knows another blog that could help me, I would be grateful. Thanks in advance

      • Val Ryan

        HI Brian, I am researching the Babcock family of Odessa but I don’t think I’m closely related to those that had the Babcock Mill. You expressed an interest to preserve the history you have been given. I would strongly recommend donating it to the Napanee Archives or the Queen’s University Archives. I would love to hear more about your family. You can email me at ryan@alcdsb.on.ca

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